By Ruthanne Chun
Your dog’s skin is a telltale—or telltail, as the case may be—sign he has had too much sun exposure. If your dog is sunburned, his skin will look pinker than normal. It might be more sensitive to the touch, too.
Your dog’s sunburn is more than unsightly and uncomfortable; it’s harmful. Like people, dogs exposed to too much sun can develop skin cancers, including hemangiosarcoma and squamous cell carcinoma. In fact, skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in dogs.
It’s better to protect your dog’s delicate skin prior to sun exposure than it is to deal with the aftermath of sun damage. If your dog is outside during the day while you’re away, make sure he can take shelter in a doghouse, or under a covered porch or shade tree. But shade doesn’t offer total UV protection, so don’t forget to apply sunscreen, too. There’s no need to hunt for special doggie sunscreen; use the same people products on your pet that you use for yourself. Just remember to:
Bellies are particularly susceptible to sunburn because dogs have thinner hair on their stomachs. UV rays reflect up from sidewalks, beach sand, and other surfaces, and can easily burn your pet’s tender tummy. If your sun-worshiping canine loves to catch a good snooze on his back, be sure to apply sunscreen to his armpits and other exposed underside areas.
Although all dogs can sunburn, you need to be extra vigilant about protection if you own a pink-skinned or thin-haired breed, such as:
Move him to a shady or indoor space as soon as possible and apply cold compresses to his skin. See your veterinarian if his skin looks very red or blistered.
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